Teen Parties Can Lead to Violence If Not Supervised, By: Riya Bhattacharjee

Friday March 17, 2006

Lauralaura is an 18YO SWF (18-year-old single white female, for the uninitiated) from Berkeley who likes Goth parties.  

Crystalia is 17. She’s a SBF from Berkeley who has a thing for impromptu dance parties. Her profile also says “YEAH for slumber parties!” 

Dolce Vita, 15, is all about the next 4th of July block party. 

All three belong to “Sexy Party People”—a group on myspace.com which boasts 76,179 members to date. Nothing wrong about being a party person—but “Sexy Party People” isn’t your everyday teen forum on parties—it comes with sights and sounds no underage teen would be encouraged to dabble in. It even talks about gatecrashing parties “just for the fun of it.” 

Gatecrashing is often one of the steps that leads to violence at teen parties. According to Officer Ed Galvan of the Berkeley Police Department, the Berkeley police occasionally receives phone-calls from irate parents or hosts about gatecrashers.  

Although concerns for violent teen parties are rising, Officer Galvan told the Daly Planet that “In general, the rowdiness or violence level in parties in Berkeley hasn’t increased or decreased over the last few years.” Echoing his words was Detective David White, Youth Services Bureau, BPD, who said that he hasn’t seen any trends in teen parties getting violent or out-of-hand. “The Berkeley Hills party which led to the Contra Costa kid being murdered was an eye opener for a lot of people. You get kids and alcohol together and it’s a dangerous mix. It’s definitely important for parents to be aware of these parties and chaperone them.” 

The other complaints about teen parties that the police receive from Berkeley residents involve noise levels, blocked streets or driveways, and littering caused by beer bottles or food. 

Although the city hasn’t enforced any rules on the chaperoning of underage parties, Officer Galvan said it was advisable to do so. “It is good to have a parent or a grown-up around in case things get out of hand,” he said. When asked why the police didn’t receive more calls from teenagers when something went wrong at these parties, Officer Galvan said that “they were probably scared of getting into trouble.” 

The city also has very strict rules about alcohol being served to minors at parties. “You cannot, by any means, serve or sell beer or any form of alcohol to someone under 21 at a house party,” said Officer Galvan. 

Keeping in mind the recent stabbings in the Berkeley hills, the BPD and the District 5 Berkeley City Council Office (represented by councilmember Laurie Capitelli) will be sponsoring a community forum on teen parties at the Northbrae Church Community Center next Thursday. The forum, “How Many Guests Are Too Many?” seeks to address the problems of large, unsupervised teen parties, uninvited guests, and noise, which result in vandalism and violence. Other concerns that will be addressed are: 

• The social factors that lead to out-of-control teen events. 

• What teens can do if their party gets out of control. 

• Teen anxiety about calling the police. What will really happen? 

• What are parents’ responsibilities if they are not there? 

• What can and should neighbors do if they suspect a large, unsupervised teen party? 

• How websites, such as “My Space,” play a role in large, unchaperoned teen parties. 

“The main reason behind this is to educate high school and middle school parents on the vices of teen parties,” said Officer Galvan. We especially hope to raise the issue of the Internet as a tool for spreading the word about these parties.” 

Jill Martinueci, aide to councilmember Capitelli, agrees. “The event is close to the area where the recent murder of Juan Carlos Ramos occurred. As a parent of a teenager I feel that forums like this are extremely important to know what’s going on.” 

Martinueci also feels that cell phones and the Internet play a huge role in getting teenagers at these parties instantaneously. “It’s all so immediate, so right now—the word spreads like wildfire. You can’t really blame any one website or chatroom for this.” 

Another parent who wished to remained anonymous told the Planet that parties in the big houses in the hills drew kids like magnets. “Somehow it makes them think that it’s going to be a nicer party. That they are away from prying eyes of parents in these places,” she said. 

Mark Coplan, Public Information Officer at BUSD and father of a 16 year-old, told the Planet that “with the influx of teen violence throughout the nation, the rules that parents lay down for their children when it comes to parties is very important.” 

“Kids often are heard telling parents, ‘don’t call other parents when I’m at a party’ because it’s not popular. If I am worried about something I always call up other parents whose kids my son is visiting. This at times has surprised a lot of parents.” 

Coplan said that his son stopped going to parties after he witnessed one getting out of control. “There was a lot of drinking and vandalism and he just shelled up after that. Now he just calls over a few friends when he wants to have fun.” 

Rio Bauce, Chair of the city’s Youth Commission and a student at Berkeley High, told the Daily Planet that teen parties in Berkeley are usually pretty mellow. “Sure you can get tons of hits on parties if you go to websites like myspace.com, but if you are sensible you would know which ones to avoid.” 

Krystal, a sophomore at Berkeley High, says that although she has witnessed smoking and drinking at teen parties in Berkeley, she hasn’t come across violence. “It’s usually normal teenage behavior. Guys being guys and fighting over alcohol or pot,” she said. Krystal has also walked into the girl’s bathroom in Berkeley High and seen girls smoking pot. 

According to Dane, a freshman at Vista College, “it all depends on what kind of people are invited and what kind of party you land up at. I have older siblings and when I exchange stories about parties with them—I don’t see any major differences in the parties we both attended.” 

Then there are some teenagers who avoid parties completely and want to keep it that way. Jessica Nicely, a junior at Berkeley High has “no time for parties.” 

“I have better things to do than getting drunk and hooking up with random people at parties. Right now rehearsing for a school musical is taking up all my time.” she told the Daily Planet.?